I know I've told the story before, of how Tre was born and everything changed. Bear with me, please, because those days are on my mind right now.
I was barely more than a child myself, really, and I knew I wasn't ready to be a mom. I cried every single day of that pregnancy. Well, every single day from 10 weeks on, when I finally relented and woke up long enough to take a test. I bounced the rent check the week before I found out I was pregnant. I was newly married, and we had no health insurance.
What was more, I had all sorts of plans. Two year plans, five year plans, ten year plans. A baby didn't fit in there for a minimum of six years. I knew what I was supposed to be doing. I think that's the main reason I cried. I knew what I was supposed to be doing, and it was all upended.
But he was there. He was just plain there, and there was (as my grandmother used to say) no way around it but through it. The morning of his birth, I hauled myself to the hospital with more of a sense of duty than breathless anticipation.
But when they handed him to me...oh, that moment. I was forever changed, from a girl with a fistful of plans, into a woman with a life's purpose. My arms were full of the most delicious being I'd ever seen, and I knew why I was born.
A mom. I am a mom.
For nineteen years I've answered the dreaded "what do you do" question just like that. I'm a mom. Sometimes I mention the homeschooling, but mostly I'm a mom. Not just a mom, either, but a mom.
Last week I was standing by the playground after picking up Sophia from school. I'd promised her she could stay and play, so there I was, chatting with two other moms. The talk turned to work. One of them works in...um...finance/insurance? I'm not entirely sure. But she mostly works from home, on conference calls, which sounds like a horrifying kind of hell to me. All meetings, no coworkers to vent to? I can't even imagine. She says it's worth it, because she hardly ever has to wear business clothes. The other one does medical billing, also from home. I listened, genuinely fascinated, because people's stories about how they ended up in their line of work are really amazing. Almost no one says, "Well, I went to college, and my major prepared me to do this, and that's what I've done ever since." Off the top of my head, I can only think of one person. Anyhow.
Eventually, the question swung my direction, what do I do? And for the first time in nearly two decades, I faltered.
"I...um...I've been homeschooling. This is my last year..."
I AM homeschooling. And that plus driving children to schools should be enough. IS enough, for me. But for the first time in this whole lifetime of being a mom, I didn't feel like enough.
The truth is that the very best parts of my job, as a mom, are being outsourced. Teaching and exploring and talking for hours. These things are being handed over to teachers and friends. As it should be. But even though my days are impossibly full, increasingly my arms are empty.
I've been debating about including this aspect of it, because it feels a little naked to me, but it is the truth, so here it goes. I wish that my childbearing years hadn't been ended by miscarriage. As I move out of everything I've known, as a mom and a homeschooler, I am dogged by a feeling that I've failed at the one thing I was ever any good at. The one thing that really mattered. That my baby would be alive if I'd done it right. I know that's not true, but knowing it doesn't erase the feeling of it. Also, whether it's hormones or grief, the loss of an unborn baby has left me with an indelible feeling in my arms of longing for a tiny body I should be holding. My arms are not only metaphorically empty, but literally. It aches.
I think it's possible that I haven't really grown up that much since I was a crying knocked-up 23 year old. I find myself again with everything I thought I knew I was supposed to do...over. It leaves me weepy sometimes.
But I also remember that I have been here before. And the last time I was so unmoored, my arms were so beautifully filled. I still do not know what I am supposed to be when I grow up, but through the tears and the fear, I watch in hope of the next astonishing thing.